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Schulz and Peanuts: A Biography

3.77  ·  Rating Details  ·  2,878 Ratings  ·  476 Reviews
Charles M. Schulz, the most widely syndicated and beloved cartoonist of all time, is also one of the least understood figures in American culture. Now acclaimed biographer David Michaelis gives us an in-depth biography of the brilliant, unseen man behind Peanuts.

It is the most American of stories: How a barber's son grew up from modest beginnings to realize his dream of cr
Audiobook, Abridged, 13 pages
Published October 16th 2007 by HarperAudio (first published 2007)
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Jun 28, 2008 Darren rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Luciously readable, fascinating, and flawed account of the life of the creator of Charlie Brown. I first decided to read this book because of a massive roundtable featured in the latest issue of "The Comics Journal," the basic conclusion being that the book does the real-life Schulz no justice. (I read the book, and then read the roundtable.)

Monte Schulz, the son of the great cartoonist, kicked off the roundtable with a massive essay that's divided into three parts: a brief memoir of his time an
Carol Storm
May 05, 2015 Carol Storm rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Charles M. Schulz was more than a cartoonist -- he was an American original, one of those profoundly revolutionary individuals who erases an entire art form and reinvents it in his own image.

The way Babe Ruth transformed baseball, the way Elvis Presley transformed popular music, the way Clint Eastwood transformed the American western, the way H.P. Lovecraft transformed modern horror, Schulz transformed the American comic strip.

Before Schulz, all was darkness and slime. Brenda Starr's drooling
Mar 05, 2008 James rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a pretty good book considering it’s about a person who was boring; lonely, distant, anxious, depressed, sad, religious, melancholy, and a teetotaler too. Charles Schulz did not drink, did not smoke, and did not swear. Picasso or F. Scott Fitzgerald he was not.

On his honeymoon, Charles Schulz looked at his bride and said, “I don’t think I can ever be happy.”

David Michaelis has achieved something truly remarkable and impressive with this work, a fascinating examination of a creative proces

“Schultz & Peanuts”. Here is a biography ostensibly of two subjects; the clue lies in the title. Inside, Charles M. Schulz, the boy (and later the man), is depicted as being impressively insignificant and insecure; whilst unsurprisingly the innate nature of the Peanuts cartoon strips are drawn from the values and family life experience of their creator. The puzzle lies in trying to understand just how quite such an unremarkable life engendered a product that went, in today’s terminology, ‘vi
Mar 10, 2011 bup rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: web cartoonists whose characters owe a lot to Schulz
I've loved Peanuts since I can remember. I really liked Peanuts - the actual comic strip that appeared daily - not the Hallmark cards and movies and countless tv specials (save the original Christmas one). It drives me absolutely bonkers when people talk about what gentle humor it was, and how it was part of a nicer time that is gone today, and talk about it like it was a bunch of precious princess pony fairies.

(Admittedly, it drives me absolutely bonkers whenever anybody talks about Peanuts l
Feb 28, 2008 Jeffrey rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biographies
As much as this book is getting negative reaction from the Schulz family as character assassination or whatever, I've really enjoyed reading. The way Michaelis pulls elements of Schulz's life from the actual Peanuts strips really pays off. But whatever flaws he exposes Charles Schulz as having actually makes me like Schulz more. For a cartoonist who has perhaps been sainted or put up on a pedastel, this book makes him much more complex, and makes him above all human.
Mar 19, 2008 Chadwick rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people who love biography, people who love Peanuts
Recommended to Chadwick by: Bill Watterson
Shelves: comics, biography
This may really be the first critical biography ever written about a comics artist. The format is revolutionary, actually using the strips to highlight the events of Schulz's life and how he expressed what he felt and thought in the day to day unfolding of Peanuts. If Michaelis is right, and his extensive, exhaustive research seems to support him in this, Schulz may have been one of the most autobiographically transparent artists of the 20th century. Some of his strips are downright creepy after ...more
Nov 07, 2007 Mikhail rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: books
I, for the most part, found this book to be an enjoyable read. I loved how honestly Michaelis portrayed Schulz as basically an asshole, because, it seems, that he actually was. My only gripe with the book is how repetitive it can get. Michaelis regurgitates a lot of what he already establishes earlier on in the biography (i.e. Sparky's insecurities and self pity and etc.) He even repeats comic strips even though Schulz had made 18,000 to choose from. There were also segments in the book where in ...more
James Murphy
Sep 06, 2010 James Murphy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Everybody loves Peanuts. The enchanting characters Charlie Brown, Lucy, Schroeder, Snoopy and all the rest speak a universal language we identify with. This biography of Charles Schulz reveals the times and personal influences on its subject as well as any I've read lately. In telling the story he spends about a third of its length on his childhood, which may be appropriate because that was the world Schulz dealt with in his strip every day. Michaelis's analysis of his subject has to include a h ...more
Lindsay Russo
I think the reason I had trouble getting through this is because I think Peanuts is depressing on the whole. It is a world where you lose your voice as an adult, girls screw with boys and a beagle's dream world is much more thrilling than reality.

The writing was stellar, and the hook of following the man from his first strip to his last was a great framing device for a man who is made out to be such an iconic figure. A true product of the Midwest's flat landscape, you have to look hard and clos
Jan 21, 2008 nicole rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2008
let the record show: schulz was kind of a tool box.

the author goes out of his way to attribute this to the early loss of his mother and inability to accept the love other people give him, but there's only so much artistic temperament one can take while reading a 672 page book. also, he was such a skirt chaser that i found the whole "oh i don't understand why anyone would love me" excuse to be full of crap.

i liked the idea of the peanuts strips used to physically illustrate inside jokes and smal
Dec 03, 2011 Tien rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I didn't have any clue about Charles Schulz except that he is the creator of Peanuts. My husband is the Peanuts fan and I got this book for him (because of the cover!!). Nothing stopped me from reading it though...

The first half of the book was pretty easygoing but then, it was a bit of a slog for me until nearly the end. It was, however, mostly due to how unhappy he was during his first marriage and how this is mirrored in his comic strips. At this stage, I wasn't sure whether I was regretting
Dec 29, 2008 Allison rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fic
I admit that I'm not a die-hard Peanuts fan. I adore Charlie Brown and Snoopy, but I don't have such grandiose ideas about their creator to be put off by some of the less wholesome details of Charles Schulz's life. I read somewhere that a few of his children were displeased with the way their father is depicted in Michaelis' book. As far as artists go, Schulz was a saint, never touching drugs or alcohol and cranking out over 17,000 Peanuts strips in his career. The characters are so much a part ...more
Apr 15, 2008 Theresa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I loved Snoopy growing up, identified heavily with him (strange, I know!), and going to the library usually meant that me and my sisters would check out a bunch of Peanuts books.

This was a great character study of Charles Schultz, and how interesting to see how the cartoons themselves echoed his life and personality. For me, living in Minneapolis, just across the river from the St. Paul that Schultz grew up in, it was interesting to read about locations that I know quite well.

Also interesting t
Dec 19, 2014 Gobasso rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
Let me say that I am/was a big fan of Peanuts so it was surprising to find out what a repressed, poorly socialized individual Charles Schulz was. He reminds of "Norwegian Bachelor Farmers" and other ornery characters of Lake Woebegone. A good example of not confusing the artist with his work. As far as the book itself, it would seem the author did his research and it is written in an accessible way. Read this only if you are prepared to be disillusioned.
Jan 07, 2016 Joe rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I am starting the year with a promise to myself that I am going to start writing some kind of review for the books I complete. Being a life long Peanuts fan I looked forward to this biography even though it is highly criticized by his family for being overly dark.
As a l finished the book I asked myself why I am attracted to biographies in general? One thing I have noticed is that there is a lot of commonality in the bios I have recently lived. I have read the bios of Janis Joplin, BB King, Lou
Andrew Schneider
Apr 24, 2014 Andrew Schneider rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book answers a question I've had for more than 30 years. Why did the quality of Peanuts seem to drop off during Charles Schulz's final two decades writing and illustrating the strip? Schulz's health certainly did take a toll on the strip during this period, if for no other reason than his hand tremors made it increasingly difficult to draw, and he insisted to the end on producing "Peanuts" entirely on his own, with out assistants. But the answer, as with so many other aspects of "Sparky's" ...more
I was born in 1963 so I grew up with the Peanuts. Other than Santa's annual visit, A Charlie Brown Christmas was THE highlight of the season. And it was really special as it aired on tv once; it was an event. I remember owning and reading many times Happiness is a Warm Puppy and I had a plush Snoopy. I adored the Peanuts and still make it a point to watch A Charlie Brown Christmas during December.

I'm trying not to mix up my disappointment with what was written about Charles Schulz in this book v
Book Concierge
Charles M Schulz always wanted to be a cartoonist. From early childhood he displayed an extraordinary gift for drawing and impressed his teachers and friends with his talent. He was just twenty-seven when his comic strip PEANUTS debuted on Oct 2, 1950. For the rest of his life he would be the sole creator of the strip – conceiving, drawing and lettering the daily and Sunday strips without assistants. Stricken with colon cancer and weakened by chemotherapy, he announced his official retirement an ...more
Apr 22, 2016 Tracy rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I am only about 100 pages in, and I am struggling. I am reading this for a book club, or I would have put this down days ago.

As someone who loved Peanuts growing up, and enjoyed all of the Charlie Brown holiday specials, I find it amazing how much I dislike this book so far! Living in Minnesota most of my life (and currently quite close to the major action of young Schulz's life), I grew up thinking of Charles Schulz as a local hero and feeling nothing but admiration. However, Charles Schulz see
Sep 02, 2013 Matt rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed
"I was a bit leery about this book, hearing how the Schulz family felt betrayed when Michaelis decided to paint Charles M. Schulz as a depressed, unfulfilled soul with a Charlie Brown complex. Most biographers have an agenda, however, and I went into it with an open mind. That said, it is a penetrating, interesting book. Michaelis has such an evocative way of describing I found myself caught up with empathy for Schulz’s early years of being confident in his own abilities, yet feeling alienated f ...more
This exhaustive and thorough biography by the author of N. C. Wyeth certainly leaves no stone unturned. Yes, it was authoritative and comprehensive, but I think taking some pruning shears to it would have improved it a bit. That said, the voluminous information did have an interesting result. The author's sympathy for Mr. Schulz is very obvious despite his best attempts at being impartial. However because he gives you all the info, not just the details that support his view of Sparky, you do hav ...more
I feel like I walked away from this book knowing more about David Michaelis' own neurosis than Schulz's. All texts are filtered through the writer's mind and inevitably reveal much about themselves. It seems to me that Michaelis was obsessed with Schulz's unhappy marriage/problems with attractive women/ distance from his mother. As far as I can tell, Michaelis has his own issues with women. :P

Another flaw is the sheer repetition, redundancy, and random directions. One passage commented on how Sc
Jul 24, 2009 Graceann rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Biography Fans
Shelves: biography
If you do some reading around the web, you'll find that Charles Schulz's family and inner circle are not at all pleased with this book. His son, Monte, cites numerous inaccuracies and believes that Mr. Michaelis went into this work with an agenda. Apparently, that agenda, Monte believes, was to make Schulz out to be a depressed, unloving SOB.

With all due respect to Sparky's loved ones, because of course they would know best, I didn't get that feeling from this book at all. I found a portrait of
May 18, 2015 Larry rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book delivers the goods on Charles Schulz, who, thank God, worked in the pre-Internet world, when content was protected and scores of publications existed so that his genius was unmediated by the selfie generation ... Michaelis delivers an unflinching account of the strange, strange man behind the Peanuts crew. Skilfully written. Read the book for the mother death bed material alone !
Nov 28, 2008 Jules rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Michaelis does a disservice to the gift of Charles Schulz (not to mention his loved ones) by spending an inordinate amount of time on the negatives of his life and his limitations, and comparatively less time on his creativity and his creation. The second half of the book particularly devolves. The risk is that people - as shown by some reviews here - take the specific characterization in such a biography as hard fact. The Comics Journal roundtable shared useful viewpoints here and here

On the o
Dec 15, 2010 Sara rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfic
This is a very, very personal book. It gets into a whole lot of less-than-flattering aspects of Sparky's life and personality, and doesn't pull any punches when talking about the way he and the people around him acted. I'm sure the representations here probably felt unfair to those who had known the people themselves, but boy does it make you feel really close to the subject.

I've never cried while reading a book, or at least not since I was in elementary school (I'm still trying to find that tea
Mar 03, 2016 Jorge rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book succeeds when detailing Schulz's professional rise and the balooning scope of the Peanuts empire.

Unfortunately, Michaelis spends too much time on the minutiae of family gossip. For instance, who gives a rip about tedious details such as Schulz's extended family member's medical histories and other inconsequential drama?

And Michaelis' credibility suffers as he repeatedly makes geographical mistakes both large and small. (e.g. Any Twin Cities native -- and Michaelis apparently interviewe
May 16, 2016 RJ rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
Solid biography of St. Paul, Minnesota's Charles Schulz, who struck gold in the 1950s with the idea for Peanuts. It details the high points from the 1960s and the slow decline as Peanuts lost its energy and relevance in later decades. Worth a read for Peanuts fans.
Jul 18, 2010 Judy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
On his honeymoon, Charles Schulz looked at his new wife and told her "I don't think that I can ever be happy." And I thought that Charlie Brown had some problems. This biography examines the life of an anxious, bitter, insecure, and emotionally distant man, who just happened to have a major influence on the culture of the United States in the second half of the 20th century. One of the highlights of this book is the inclusion of numerous Peanuts comic strips that illustrate the particular points ...more
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article 1 40 Oct 22, 2007 05:31AM  
  • Peanuts: The Art of Charles M. Schulz
  • The Complete Peanuts, Vol. 2: 1953-1954
  • Walt Disney: The Triumph of the American Imagination
  • Groucho: The Life and Times of Julius Henry Marx
  • Finding Oz: How L. Frank Baum Discovered the Great American Story
  • Chuck Amuck: The Life and Time of an Animated Cartoonist
  • Dr. Seuss and Mr. Geisel
  • Hershey: Milton S. Hershey's Extraordinary Life of Wealth, Empire, and Utopian Dreams
  • Men of Tomorrow: Geeks, Gangsters, and the Birth of the Comic Book
  • Sesame Street: A Celebration of 40 Years of Life on the Street
  • Orson Welles, Vol. 1: The Road to Xanadu
  • Jimmy Stewart: A Biography
  • Kirby: King of Comics
  • The Secret Life of Houdini: The Making of America's First Superhero
  • Comic Wars: How Two Tycoons Battled Over the Marvel Comics Empire--And Both Lost
  • Bing Crosby: A Pocketful of Dreams - The Early Years 1903 - 1940
David Michaelis grew up in Cambridge, Mass. and Washington, D. C., was educated at Concord Academy and Princeton University, and is the author of the national bestsellers N. C. WYETH: A Biography (Alfred A. Knopf, 1998; available from Harper Perennial), which won the 1999 Ambassador Book Award for Biography, given by the English-Speaking Union of the United States, and SCHULZ AND PEANUTS: A Biogra ...more
More about David Michaelis...

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“Security is having a home town. - Charles Schulz” 3 likes
“That's the secret, Frank. Always have an iron in the fire. Always have another angle ready to go... Remember, if you can't outplay them, you have to outwork them. - Charles Schulz” 2 likes
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